Unless your office strictly enforces lunch breaks, you might have fallen into the unfortunate habit of skipping yours in order to squeeze in a little extra work. Or maybe you quickly scarf down a yogurt in the dimly lit break room to save time. And you aren’t alone! Only one in five office workers reports taking a lunch break. But taking time to step away from your desk to eat and recharge is hugely important for your productivity.
Employees who take a break during the workday have more energy, more motivation to return to work and are better able to concentrate. Those who take breaks also have fewer symptoms of common workplace maladies such as headaches, eyestrain and lower back pain.
Psychologists have found that people actually work best in 90-minute spurts with a break in between, and taking a substantial break halfway through the day can do you a lot of good. Studies show this break helps you to regroup, prioritize and better manage your stress levels.
In fact, a break will help you accomplish more than if you work through lunch and skip a meal in favor of a granola bar. The longer you’re at work, the more important it becomes to step away from your desk, because creativity and innovation are fueled by a change in environment, especially if you head outside. Which means both you and your company will benefit from you taking a lunch break.
Sometimes a lunch break can feel like an extra hour of work tacked onto your day, but by looking at it as personal time (which it is!), you might start to really enjoy it!
Here, a few tips on how to use your lunch break to your benefit.
How To Take Back Your Lunch Break
Stretch Your Legs
If the idea of spending a whole hour eating lunch sounds like a waste of time, eat quickly then get moving! Physical activity can improve concentration, sharpen memory, quicken learning, prolong mental stamina, enhance creativity and reduce stress.
Full hour: Working out may seem impossible on your lunch break, but if your office has a gym or there's one nearby, it's doable. You can squeeze in a high-intensity 30-minute workout and still have time to freshen up.
30 minutes: No time to make it to the gym? Or is the sweat just too much? Skip the gym and take a brisk walk outside. On top of the exercise and fresh air, a little vitamin D will boost your mood and do you a world of good.
Quick 15: If you're on a real time crunch, do a few quick stretches and feel the tightness in your back and neck melt away.
Step Away From The Screen
While you may be tempted to scroll through social media on your phone, try to break away from screens at lunch. Too much time spent staring at a screen can leave your eyes dry, irritated, tired and out of focus. You may also suffer from head, neck and back pain. These are symptoms of digital eye strain, which nearly 95% of Americans are at risk for and more than 60% experience.
Full hour: Escape into a fantasy world or a non-fiction book on your lunch break. How many times have you said you wish you had more time to read? This is the perfect time to retreat with a page turner.
30 minutes: Not enough time to get invested in a book? Flip through your favorite magazine or newspaper. If you frequently complain about the demise of print, put your money where your mouth is!
Quick 15: If you don't have enough time to read, at the very least eat lunch away from your screens and give your eyes a much-needed break. And if you know you'll be tempted to look at your phone, leave it at your desk and hightail it to the break room.
Call A Friend
As much as you love your coworkers, sometimes you need a little break, and on a particularly hard day you might feel like you really need your best friend. See if your pal is available for a lunch date.
Full hour: Treat yourself to your favorite restaurant with a friend and it'll be the highlight of your workweek, we promise.
30 minutes: No time to escape the office? Call a friend, your mom or your partner for some catch-up time. With everyone's busy schedules, it may be best to plan the call in advance, which means you will have something to look forward to all day! Bonus if you do it while walking around the block.
Quick 15: Send a few texts to your nearest and dearest saying you are thinking of them and want to see them soon. And actually say when. See if anyone is available for after-work drinks or a weekend hike—just the act of planning something fun will brighten your mood.
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Don't Worry About Work
While sometimes you need a good venting session with co-workers, try to avoid talking about work too much on your lunch break. You need to escape your workplace worries during lunch and by talking about work you may end up even more stressed about office drama or a looming deadline.
Full hour: Stop in the cute boutique you drive by every day and have always wanted to check out, treat yourself to a latte or find a peaceful park to sit in and enjoy nature.
30 minutes: If you can't leave the office, spend your lunch break getting to know your co-workers on a more personal level. You'll end up having more interesting things to talk about than how no one ever cleans the break room microwave.
Quick 15: Between all of the phone calls, watercooler chatter and e-mails, sometimes you just need a few minutes of quiet where no one is asking you for anything. Sneak out to your car if you can't find a quiet spot to retreat to.
We know what you are thinking: Running errands sounds like work, not a break! But hear us out—you'll have to do them after work when you're tired, or on the weekend when you'd rather be doing something fun. By doing them on your lunch break, your free time will become a lot more free.
Full hour: You'd be surprised what kind of tasks you can accomplish on an hour-long lunch break. Need to wax a discreet area like your underarms? It'll only take 15 minutes! Pack and ship that present to your grandma, drop off your new jeans at the tailor or take your car to the car wash.
30 minutes: Stop by the pharmacy or dry cleaner so you can head straight home after work without stopping. As a bonus, you'll avoid long lines with the after-work crowd.
Quick 15: Make phone calls you've been putting off (such as doctor's appointments or those dreaded calls to your cable company).
Related: 7 Phrases To Stop Saying At Work
Do Something Totally Mindless
If your mind is on constant overdrive during the workday, try and shut off after you finish your lunch. Do something fun that requires little thought, but that will keep you distracted from the work waiting for you.
Full hour: Tackle a project like knitting a scarf, sketching or anything that will get your creative juices flowing. You'll have to focus, but just enough to stop you from thinking about work.
30 minutes: If you had 30 minutes to kill at home, you could find something fun to do, so why not at work? It can be time for a quick crossword puzzle, to practice a foreign language with an app or to listen to a podcast.
Quick 15: Lean back and close your eyes or try meditating for a few minutes. Checking out during your lunch break will help you feel rested and ready to tackle the rest of your day.
Check out the original article on The Everygirl.